Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cash Cow

Maybe it's wishful thinking to suppose that the garbage of reality teevee, particularly the more exploitative "hillbilly" schtick of Duck Dynasty and Honey Boo Boo, have finally jumped the proverbial shark -- even if, in this case, the hapless selachimorph is in a vat of mayonnaise, with some drooling inbred gibbering and tapping on the side at it.

Slathering the contrived misadventures of these random backwoods halfwits in a greasy film of "family" life doesn't make it any better, doesn't change the fact that (to insert and compare current "conservative culcha" tropes) Phil Robertson was more of a thug than crackers assume Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown were (or that he's simply a blithering idiot with way more of a platform than his nonsense deserves), that June Shannon could shame any welfare queen Those People might have.

It's passing strange that, in a 24-hour media system that scrutinizes and ruminates over the most ridiculous, peripheral ideas imaginable, that those inconvenient truths don't get brought up more often, or much at all. Not being part of the audience, I really have no idea who what the demographic for this sort of shit is in the first place, presumably shut-ins lacking any semblance of taste or critical thought. Having made the mistake of sitting through one episode of Duck Dynasty just to see what the fuss was about, and seen enough excerpts of Honey Boo Boo on The Soup to get the idea, I can at least safely posit that these things are not being watched "ironically," that the core audience is genuinely interested in the (again, contrived) comings and goings of these dullards.

Yes, ordinarily these are just the usual chacun à son gout deals, where the smart set can safely curl their collective lip, roll their eyes, mutter something uncharitable about the complete lack of sophistication of the fan base in question, and be on about their way. Might as well gripe about the success of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber.

But when, in the above examples, you have one "star" using his "fame" to promote his mossback religious and political agenda anywhere and everywhere he can, and the other is a disgusting idiot who has been impregnated by multiple felons, and has partnered with at least two convicted child molesters, it's a little more than just a matter of taste.

Maybe it's time to start boycotting the sponsors of fucktard basic cable outlets such as A&E and TLC -- which, let's recall, used to stand for Arts & Entertainment and The Learning Channel, respectively -- until they can vet their maroons a little better. Not saying we all need to watch Mawsterpiece Theatre and practice our Downton Abbey etiquette protocols, not remotely. But this incessant promotion of idiots and assholes -- isn't that what we have politics for?


I don't suppose you've heard that there's an election in the next couple weeks. "Both" "sides" proclaim it as the most important evah, just like all the other ones which Changed Everything. If 'murka has a more enduring, precious fiction than the one that claims that the one-percenters who own and run this popsicle stand are suddenly going to cede control because The Peepul Has Spoken, I have yet to hear it.

The fact of the matter is that, unless there is a supermajority in the Senate -- and maybe not even then -- nothing at all will change. It does not matter whether there are 55 Republican Senators or 59 Democratic Senators. It should be clear at this point that the defining characteristic of this particular gubmental body is stasis and gridlock.

From the perspective of the peons, and the media monkeys who pretend to be On Their Side, that is a flaw; from the perspective of the Owners, once again, it is a feature. But up to that supermajority point, both parties have dedicated themselves to the notion of using the mighty threat of a filibuster to cow the other side.

(Of course, the Republicans probably can and will take the simple majority in the Senate, so pay close attention to whether minority Dems employ the same tactics that the Goopers have used for six years straight, or if they fold back into their usual "go along to get along" master strategy of capitulation. That will remove all doubt as to who's "on your side," Monsieur et Madame Six-Pack.)

Enter performance artist and connoisseur of Peruvian flake Larry Kudlow, whose screeds only seem to get screedier.
The Republicans are going to recapture the Senate, picking up more seats than most any forecaster expects. And the House GOP is going to add to its majority. But then comes the big story: The beginning of a new conservative revolution.


Obama's head will spin with all the new paperwork on his desk. He may even have to cut back on his golf game. 
Of course, because of his left-wing ideology, Obama may veto everything. But if he does, he's setting up a new Republican agenda for the 2016 presidential race. Either Hillary Clinton completely jumps the Obama ship, or she's pulled way left by the Democratic party's Bill de Blasio/Elizabeth Warren/Sandinista wing. Either way, she's in trouble.
And maybe some Senate Democrats vote to override Obama's vetoes, with some even converting to Republicanism. An Angus King or a Joe Manchin may cross the aisle after the likely midterm GOP landslide.
[emphasis mine]

Only a complete moron would still call Barack Obama, with his killbots and surveillance and coddling of Wall Street predators "left-wing." In an era when Richard Nixon and probably Saint Reagan would run as Democrats, Obama is a reliably center-to-center-right hack. Whatever Obama's lofty rhetoric has been on this or that issue, his actions have been predictably centrist, dickless and conciliatory.

Not knowing or caring the difference between confidence and chutzpah, Kudlow blindly trucks on through with his bold assertions and predictions, never minding that the general, reasonably non-partisan consensus predicts about a 52-48 R-D split. Which again, should clarify whether or not there actually is a dime's worth of difference between these assholes and those assholes.

If "taker" states want to proclaim their rugged individualism by continuing to vote against their rational self-interest by voting in the usual Republican clock-cleaning grifters, then fuck 'em. They get exactly what they deserve. You think I feel a bit of sympathy for Kansas? Fuck no. Let 'em choke on it, if that's what they want. They'll figure out the hard way when they've had enough voodoo econ, and then they can fucking well bootstrap themselves out of it. Anything else would be sociamalism.

Every one of those teabagger rubes falls for this "I'mma cut me some pork!" horseshit -- except, of course, the "pork" that turns out to be jobs and aid and gubmint subsidies for their district. Then all that principled rugged individualism shit goes straight out the window. Just try touching fucking ethanol subsidies in Iowa, guaranteed you'll draw back a bloody stump. So, you know, Iowa deserves a burbling fool like Joni Ernst. Maybe Steve Braley should fuck a pig at the county fair, just to convince the locals he's the man for the job.

Back to Kudlow. The balls on people like this clown, privileged shitheads who've never had to answer for anything, who were allowed to fail upward where others would find themselves destitute; who were allowed to go to rehab when others went to prison. Kudlow is the standard-issue limo-lib who converted from SDS to supply-side evangelist when he saw where the money was going.

These people have no principles -- and more importantly, no empathy. They couldn't give less of a shit about the very real consequences of the globalization of capital and labor, of the decimation of the American manufacturing base, of the rampant wealth inequality that continues to undermine what could and should be a very smooth running economy that really would lift all the boats, instead of just the yachts.

But they don't want that, they want it all, every last scrap. The metaphor of the one guy taking 11 of the 12 donuts, leaving everyone else in the office to divvy up the last donut in the dozen, only goes so far. What we forget is that, rather than simply skulking off with their ill-gotten gain and being grateful that the rest of the office doesn't beat the shit out of him, the greedy bastard spends all his time trying to figure out how to get the last donut as well.

And he uses guys like Larry Kudlow to make his arguments for him, because Kudlow has literally no idea what a working-class American does or deals with on a daily basis -- and more importantly, like his owners, Kudlow doesn't care. At all.

This country is finished, and the idea that its agonizing downhill trajectory will alter appreciably if, say, Alison Grimes displaces Mitch McConnell, or Mark Begich keeps his seat, is as fine an example of magical thinking as you might find in the viewers and donors of any given glossolalic teevee evange-huckster.

Friday, October 10, 2014

4 Years a Slave

Because the overpaid assholes who run the NCAA don't have enough to do, and they're just not raking quite enough money in with their innovative "you do all the work and take all the hits, we'll keep the money and give you a college degree that isn't worth jack shit" philosophy, star Georgia running back Todd Gurley becomes their latest victim.

Gurley has incurred the mighty wrath of the NCAA by -- hold on to your hats, folks, 'cause this will blow your fucking minds, see -- selling his autograph. I know, right? An athalete selling his autograph. What is this world coming to?

"Well," you might be saying to yourself, "this Gurley man [ed. - see what I did there?] must have made enough money to cause some sort of stir and get the attention of such a busy organization as the NCAA." Nope. Reader, I shit you not -- Gurley stands accused of making a whopping $400. There are no zeroes or commas missing there. Four hundred dollars.

Now, it's true, the NCAA did generously cave in to modern notions of basic decency, and allow athletes access to unlimited food and snacks, after basketball guard Shabazz Napier of the NCAA champeen UConn Huskies inconveniently mentioned that he frequently went to bed hungry because he couldn't afford food. Since UConn basketball jerseys apparently retail for between $50-90 a pop, you know that someone's eating well with this racket.

It's bad enough that some of these poor kids have to worry about getting buttfucked by their closet-case teammates just to play in a solid high school program, and get into a decent college program from there. But then the NCAA just picks up from where the cornhole crew leaves off, helping the schools make truckloads of cash from swag and ticket sales on these kids' backs, with the unlikely glimmer of promise of a pro career. I hope the players continue to unionize, and take these thieving assholes to the cleaners.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Outrage Du Jour

So let's see if we have this straight -- this weekend commenced a massive bombing run in yet another fragmented, despotic Middle Eastern nation that we know nothing about, to kill people we know nothing about, to render consequences we (via the transitive properties of the first two points) cannot foresee. Again.

And yet what's got people's panties in a huge fucking wad is whether a meaningless public gesture was properly made. Friends 'n' neighbors, I'll tell you something -- there are a lot of reasons to be unhappy with Obama. An off-handed, half-assed salute is about #50 on the list.

I've said it before and I'll continue to say it to my final day:  a country so chock-full of whinging boobs and ninnies deserves exactly the corrupt, inept, grasping, scheming gubmint it gets, from the Moooslim in Chief on down to goat-fucking reprobates like Louie Gohmert.

Let me be more specific on this subject. Since for some inexplicable reason I like to keep "informed," and don't have enough disposable income to, you know, take a vacation and have a life, I am all too aware of dopey "cultural barometer" non-issues such as this. I prefer to look at current events, and their concomitant media coverage and reactions from the rabble, in terms of nutritional content, on a pound-for-pound basis.

In other words, while I might disagree with someone's opinion on, say, the war in Afghanistan or what to do about Wall Street, at least those issues have some real heft and effect. Even if I radically disagree -- even if I am diametrically opposed, like Chaotic Good to Lawful Evil, yo -- at least the worthy opponents have registered their jabber on an issue that actually means something. At least it's an issue that can be chewed over. There's some steak there, some protein in the mix.

What I have come to think of as "Facebook" issues, such as the (socialist, atheist) pledge of allegiance, this "latte salute" arglebargle, or just how awesome the movie God Isn't DeadGod's Not Dead is, where people will work themselves into a nice frothy lather (much like that in Obammy's coffee cup, oh snap!), it's nothing. It's marshmallow crème. It's a 50 lb. gunny sack of Cheetos. It's a steaming bucket of shit. It's a fucking bowl of Cool Hwhip. It is not only completely devoid of any nutrition whatsoever, it is bad for you.

And I'm sorry, but even children can tell the difference; adults certainly should be able to as well. Cheap symbolism is just that, nothing more. On the one hand, there are and have been symbols that bind peoples, nations, groups of like-minded people. But, uh, guess what? We now communicate instantaneously, we are not constrained by temporal boundaries of distant, unreliable service of mail and news.

The idea that the empty comfort of a crisp salute, from a man who otherwise is preoccupied with starting more wars to slow the decline of his political party, and stroking the pelf-grubbing thieves who own everything, means anything, beyond what gaggles of choice idiots think they need it to mean, is preposterous. If he salutes to their approval -- and you can be sure that, for the most part in six years so far, he has, or the quaking dipshits at Faux News would have hit you upside the head long ago -- those other things are still taking place.

All these staunch defenders of "our troops" and the utterly meaningless rituals that surround their activities. Here's a thought -- if you're so gung-ho about supporting military personnel, howzabout you devote your energy and cheap, empty rage to getting them a decent pay scale?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Keeping Score

What Driftglass said. Only the political punditocracy has such non-existent accountability measures. The blogosphere is infinitely more self-regulating; chumps like Bobo Brooks and Billy Kristol would be run out of town on a virtual hot rail for their infuriating consistency at being wrong. But there they are, everywhere you turn, cluttering up various media portals, in print or in person.

It's bad enough that such people continue to cash fat checks in spite of their reliable wrongness. More pernicious is how it leads to institutional forgetfulness, the slate wiped clean with each appearance, so long as no one says anything politically incorrect.

Which, as it turns out, is entirely the point and purpose of that industry -- to legitimize what is profoundly illegitimate, to lend unearned credence and gravitas to analysis and opinions that, if they didn't affect so many lives in so many deep and painful ways, would be comical in their level of error and shoddy craftsmanship. They want to take your money and freedom, sure, but they need for you to grant them your permission, to thank them for it afterward.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Arrested Development

Definitely enjoyed deBoer's review of A.O. Scott's cultural critique, but I feel the urge to add another layer of meta to the proceedings. Scott's assessment of changing male TV and movie archetypes ring true enough, but his observations on music are maybe thinner than one would like:
And while Queen Bey may be the biggest, most self-contradicting, most multitude-containing force in popular music at the moment, she is hardly alone. Taylor Swift recently described how, under the influence of her friend Lena Dunham, she realized that “I’ve been taking a feminist stance without saying so,” which only confirmed what anyone who had been listening to her smart-girl power ballads already knew. And while there will continue to be hand-wringing about the ways female singers are sexualized — cue the pro and con think pieces about Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, Iggy Azalea, Lady Gaga, Kesha and, of course, Madonna, the mother of them all — it is hard to argue with their assertions of power and independence. Take note of the extent and diversity of that list and feel free to add names to it. The dominant voices in pop music now, with the possible exception of rock, which is dad music anyway, belong to women. The conversations rippling under the surfaces of their songs are as often as not with other women — friends, fans, rivals and influences.
[emphasis mine]

Couple things here. First is the " dad music anyway" dismissal. In some ways it is, sure; the traditional triumvirate of vocals-drums-guitars that tethered rock music for a half-century now are, in its various incarnations intact, even static in its hipster retro iterations. But there are plenty of newer and younger fans for that kind of music. The dichotomy of rock and metal fandom, versus the AutoTuned, over-processed pap that passes for pop these days, is less age-based and more gender-based.

Just a few days ago, I chastised at great length the emptiness of Gene Simmons' contention that rock is dead, and elaborated on what a piss-poor idea it is to go into "music" as some sort of lucrative career option, like being a lawyer or plumber or criminal financier. But the flipside of that question deserves to be asked as well -- is there a way one can increase their chances of being a successful musical entrepreneur?

Reader, there is, I assure you. The best and most efficient path to huge mega-music-mogul-successmanship is simply to go down to the mall, find the Hot Topic store or the food court or anywhere 15-year-old girls are congregating, and listen to what they're listening to. Try to get about 4-6 weeks ahead of that sound if you can. Get the hang of Pro Tools, AutoTune, drum machines, beat programmers, and any other tools that the hep cats are using to make their crunk swang, yo.

And not to be sexist, I swear, but Scott's entire list of empowered pop chicks falls well into that rough categorization. It is useful to critique the products of these ladies on Scott's own terms -- both as "music," however subjectively you want to define that, and as evidentiary exhibits of cultural sea change, and then decide whether either of those things qualify as a step forward. The fact of the matter is that most of Scott's list is mallrat music.

And that's the second thing -- especially when we're younger and our musical consumption ritual is more communal, less personal, guys are more likely to throw on whatever they think the nearest nubile young women will want to hear. What we listen to at a party is obviously much different than what we'll listen to at home alone, with the headphones on. The personal versus communal experiences define how each of us, male or female, old or young, interact with our various media artifacts. Because of the brevity of the typical song, nowhere is this more true than with music.

I submit that a grown woman listening to Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azalea is precisely the same thing that Scott decries when he sees a 35-year-old woman reading a Hunger Games book. All that means is that, contra Scott's assumptions re Sandler and Apatow, both genders can be culturally infantilized with relative ease.

But what I really want to get into is deBoer's theme of cultural stultification as a barometer of demographic lassitude. That pop culture pieces become routinely more infantilized is simply a reflection of the society itself, which is as it should be.

It makes sense that comic-book franchises dominate the big screen in a society where people will sit and watch literally just about anything; where conventions of plot and narrative become less and less necessary; where people will convey idiotic opinions to random strangers about events that have zero effect on their lives, but can't be bothered to vote; where gun fetishists treat their totems both as toys and as bulwarks of self-defense against rampant crime and the jackbooted state, even though the violent crime rate continues to decline, and these are the selfsame people who, when a cop shoots an unarmed minority or kid, will reflexively jump to the defense of that same jackboot they profess to defend themselves from.

In a nation of 320 million inhabitants, one expects various niches of culture, politics, taste, etc. But these episodes of cognitive dissonance frequently come from the same niches. DeBoer's plaint about the self-appointed pop-culture aesthetes, "the aggressive nerds who police our artistic discourse like prison camp screws" (wonderful turn of phrase, that), rings true, as so much pop criticism comes pre-soaked in post-ironic "we know it's bad but it's so bad it's good" meta-commentary.

So you have a pop-culture mega-industry that produces trilogies of overlong movies based on comic-book franchises, and then remakes all three movies within a decade, a clear signal that technological advances, rather than peripheral elements such as acting and writing and such like, drive the bus. You have an industry that, so far, has made four movies totaling some eight or ten hours or so about sentient robots that turn back-and-forth into cars, planes, kitchen appliances perhaps.

I could be a smug, pretentious asshole and declaim this sort of thing as mere childishness, but the Transformers did not make sense to me when I was a child. I can't believe that that's because I had no imagination or whimsy as a child; I was steeped in sci-fi and fantasy books, and watched just about every '70s cartoon imaginable. But when people become immersed in this hacky, dopey stuff, they get used to it -- and when that's the majority of what's offered anymore, there is no longer any objective context, nothing to compare it to as a reference point. All you can do with the rebooted Spider-Man [rolls eyes] movie is compare it to its earlier rendition from a few years ago.

One of deBoer's commenters asserts glibly that "[w]e ought to be suspicious when you say you like foie gras but you are bored by birthday cake," which sounds true enough on its face, but when the majority of the menu is now birthday cake, one ought to be even more suspicious. No one in their right mind expects that the proles will suddenly set down their celebrojourno ass-sniffing periodicals in favor of Cahiers du Cinema or the Utne Reader.

But there's no balance, no real countervailing force to shitty, machine-made music promoted by manufactured personalities, or trite Hero's Journey narratives cobbled together one more blessed time, but with fresher graphics. Disposable pre-fab things that have already been manufactured before, and better. I honestly believe we are approaching a point where entire movies can and will be made without seeing a live human on the screen, they'll just create a generic, agreeable persona and hire some random ape to mo-cap the action and dub the dialogue.

There should be more salient criteria to getting a movie made than "shiny thing go boom" or "fat guy married to Salma Hayek." In a larger sense, it is an accurate reflection of a society that has given up, and is content with its CGI gruel. If the only goal of experiencing any new music or movie or teevee show is to kill an afternoon or evening, to just mark time and run down life's clock one by one until the eventual end, then what is the point?

Friday, September 12, 2014

Anger Management

Vigilante doughboy George Zimmerman, who once shot a kid in Florida just to watch him die, is having trouble controlling his temper yet again.

If Zimmerman were black -- or a little girl with a cell phone -- he'd already have been beat down or shot by the cops, on video, with random idiots rushing to copsplain that the video doesn't tell the whole story.


Wife of the Party

The Palins plan their dine-and-dash from The Golden Snoot.
The Wasilla Hillbillies just cain't help theirselfs, kin they? Showing up at someone else's birthday shindig in a stretch Hummer limo (because a dented Airstream would have been just too fucking spot-on), the ClampettsPalins promptly set about making it all about them, as usual:

....multiple accounts say that it started when Track confronted Willow’s former boyfriend, Conner Cleary, who was there with his father Steve and his mother Melissa. Thompson didn’t see this part, but other witnesses, who didn’t want to be named, say that Conner and Track fought on the front yard. Steve tried to break it up. Todd jumped into the mix and began to choke Steve. 
After that ended, Conner, Steve, and Melissa Cleary huddled together close to Thompson, who spotted Bristol and Willow from a distance, walking straight towards them with purpose.

“They were on a b-line, coming straight at Melissa,” Thompson said.

The owner of the house, Klingenmeyer, was trying to head them off at the pass. He approached them and told them to leave. Bristol, according to Thompson and other witnesses, planted her feet, “stood straight up, brought her arm back and cold-cocked him right in the face,” Thompson said.

And then she did it again, about six more times, before he pushed her away, and she fell, and Todd appeared.


Another melee. This time Sarah got involved and began to scream profanities at everyone. One source, who didn’t want to be named, said that she was “nearly crawling on top of people,” trying to get into the scrum.

As these things go, that also broke up, and the Palins were asked again to leave. They piled into the Hummer, but not until Track stood out in front of the house, inexplicably with his shirt off, his middle finger raised at those who were also leaving.
On the one hand, it's so cool that the most important woman in the universe has time to crash other people's parties and siphon cash from rube subscribers; on the other, her slugging percentage with successful parenting is sad enough that a normal person with that, um, track record would shy away from offering family and parenting advice.

A few more "doncha know who I am?" tirades from Miss Thang and her insufferably over-entitled drunken brood, and they may find themselves sent out on an ice floe by fed-up Alaskans. As always, one can hope.

Oh and, uh, fuck you, John McCain. This is all your fault.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

ISIS Crisis

On the 13th Anniversary of Never Forget Day, we find ourselves ready to head back into Iraq, on a seemingly more justifiable mission than last time, but still a fool's errand with no happy ending. It's not that you can't make a respectable case for military and humanitarian intervention in the region. And if it's remotely true that the group has considerable assets and volunteers from a variety of countries, it is entirely conceivable that a non-Arab cell could sneak, say, a nuclear suitcase into Miami or Baltimore.

What should give pause is what is seemingly not being said, at least as far as I've seen or heard. The fact of the matter is, as Afghanistan and Iraq and Libya and Syria and any number of countries in the region demonstrate, we don't know what we're doing there. We don't know anything about these people, we don't understand why they hate us, we can't figure out the difference between the various groups. We don't know the cultures, the languages, we can't find them on a map.

When you don't know jack shit about a country and people you want to bomb or otherwise commit violence upon, isn't it time you checked your basic premises? Does there have to be a larger casus belli than "I think these guys might be assholes, if these are the guys I'm thinking of."? Weren't some of these ISIS cells rebelling against Bashar al-Assad just a year ago, and weren't we ready to arm them in their fight?

Nowhere in this "spreadin' freedom" effort of the last decade or so, nowhere in the premature triumphalism of the Arab Spring, was the possibility noted that, just because the citizens of these countries had chosen to free themselves from the torturous yokes of (sometimes American-supported) despots and dictators, that they automatically wanted what we had to offer -- an emotionally-retarded culture buttressed by an economy mostly based on rackets and pilferage. Shit, they already have those things.

Look, even if these ISIS assholes aren't a direct threat to American geopolitical interests -- and they almost certainly are, if not a direct threat to the US mainland itself -- it is also difficult to simply stand by while they decapitate foolhardy journalists out in their desert moonscape, while they seize dams and terrorize cities and civilians, while they attempt to exterminate minority religions in the area. But it must also be taken into account that our track record has been one of going in and leaving a bigger mess than when we got there.

Wars and insurgencies, whether they are wrought by religious terrorists or secular governments, are fought for one reason and one reason only -- to establish and legitimize power. Clausewitz's saying about war being politics by other means is as true as ever. It might be helpful if for once, we knew what we were getting into before getting into it.